When the COVID-19 crisis struck in mid-March, Victoria-based indie folk duo Ocie Elliott had just returned from Europe with fellow local band Current Swell. The duo—featuring Jon Middleton and Sierra Lundy—was set to head back to Europe in less than six weeks and play several summer festivals, including the Winnipeg Folk Fest. Their fourth album was set to drop in late March and plans for additional tours in Canada and the US were underway.
Then everything came to a screeching halt. Sold-out album release shows in Victoria, Duncan and Vancouver were cancelled, and the album, In That Room, dropped without any live-show fanfare. Like many bands, Ocie Elliott had to quickly switch gears. Monday caught up with Ocie Elliott to ask a few questions:
What has been the most challenging aspect of the COVID period for you?
For us, the hardest part has been not knowing when we’ll be able to go back on the road and play music to live audiences—we had so many tours and festivals lined up for the spring, summer and fall and it’s been hard to see all of them get cancelled. Also, spending so much time in one place, internally and externally has brought its challenges.
What steps did you take to mitigate the effects of the shutdown?
We tried our best to make small goals that gave us things to work towards, such as learning new cover songs to record once a week in our CRV (we often record video sessions performed from the back seat of our cosy and wonderful-sounding 2001 Honda CRV). Thankfully, we also had an album come out March 20th, which gave us something to focus on and look forward to, and also made us feel as if we were still being active musically.
Have there been any positives to come out of this?
There have been a few for sure. We absolutely love to travel and tour, but Jon in particular has done so much of it over the years that it’s been nice to get a bit of a breather from all the movement. We’ve also had more time to focus on writing new music. Usually, and especially during the summer, there are so many shows happening and that makes it hard to really get into writing. It’s also been refreshing being able to slow down and reflect on how fortunate we are as a band and just in general, living where we do.
You had significant momentum underway, do you think this period has hindered this?
It definitely has, since touring is such a huge part of promotion and career development in the music industry. That being said, since everyone has been more engaged with online resources like streaming services and social media, we have seen some growth in that regard.
The one thing we always keep in mind is that we aren’t the only ones going through these kinds of hindrances and challenges—so many industries are facing huge struggles. The only thing we can do is try stay positive and to work with what we have.
You just dropped another EP July 17. How has the continued shutdown of live music affected this release?
Part of the fun of putting out new music is getting to play it live, so not being able to do that has been disheartening. As mentioned, it’s also a key part of promoting new music. We had a number of album release concerts scheduled locally to promote our March release, and not being able to share our new songs live has, well, sucked. This being said, we’re really touched by all the support we’ve had online from our fans through streaming, comments and personal messages during this time—it really has made a difference.
Do you have any live shows scheduled? Planned?
Right now, the only concerts we have scheduled are for May 2021 in Europe (hopefully these can happen!). In the meantime, with the capacity limitations being what they are, we are pretty limited in what we can do. We’re hoping that things will be back closer to normal for spring and summer of 2021 and we’re planning accordingly!
How can music lovers help you and other musicians during this difficult time?
Streaming and sharing in any way possible…. For us, music has been an essential ingredient in getting through these times, and so we hope our music does the same for others. The more people listen and connect to our music, the more supported we feel in return. It’s a sweet little cycle that makes COVID feel a bit more manageable.
Photography by Lia Crowe